Kaika and Swyngedouw, in the deliciously titled “Fetishizing the Modern City: The Phantasmagoria of Urban Technological Networks" (2000)
Created by Edge Design Institute, a monolithic structure in Central Hong Kong was transformed from a public staircase into a communal seating area with gardening features, giving extra meaning to a neglected and overlooked, urban space. (via Eight Imaginative Projects Reusing Infrastructure in Cities | This Big City)
Rory Stott, Architecture’s Brave New Digital World
Enrique Peñalosa, cited by Sarah Goodyear in Looking for Equality in Public Spaces
I wish journalists would talk to futurists when waving their hands about the future. Here’s a piece about the future of cities via-a-vis driverless cars that does not even try to correlate this trend with other salient ones, like millenenials’ dislike of cars, the first ever decrease in driving, and the hollowing out of suburbia. As a result, this piece is all over the place. And note that the sources I am using are often the NY Times itself, where Bilton works.
As scientists and car companies forge ahead — many expect self-driving cars to become commonplace in the next decade — researchers, city planners and engineers are contemplating how city spaces could change if our cars start doing the driving for us. There are risks, of course: People might be more open to a longer daily commute, leading to even more urban sprawl.
That city of the future could have narrower streets because parking spots would no longer be necessary. And the air would be cleaner because people would drive less. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30 percent of driving in business districts is spent in a hunt for a parking spot, and the agency estimates that almost one billion miles of driving is wasted that way every year.
“What automation is going to allow is repurposing, both of spaces in cities, and of the car itself,” said Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law, who specializes in robotics and drones.
Harvard University researchers note that as much as one-third of the land in some cities is devoted to parking spots. Some city planners expect that the cost of homes will fall as more space will become available in cities. If parking on city streets is reduced and other vehicles on roadways become smaller, homes and offices will take up that space.
It is more likely that available roadway space — once parking on the margins is less necessary — would be repurposed as walkable shared roads and urban green space. Especially since the driverless cars would be programmed to drive at 10 miles per hour in such areas, and would do a better job at avoiding a child chasing a ball in the street.
Parking lots could be repurposed, yes, and many of those might be converted into homes and offices, and yes, that might decrease housing costs somewhat, although the urban surge is still going.
Again, the current population trend in the US is a migration of the young and affluent into denser urban settings, and the displacement of less affluent people into near suburbia, and the collapse of exurbia (See Michael Frey’s Population Growth in Metro America Since 1980: Putting the Volatile 2000s in Perspective, for real stats on demographic change and migration to the cities). Even if people could ride a bicycle in the back of a driverless van commuting to some distant exurb from a downtown job, the reality is no one wants to live out there anymore.
The biggest trend missing here is the likely increase in municipally-managed cars in a driverless world: a massive car share service. People could dispense with car ownership, and the costs of relying on the equivalent of driverless taxis would plummet, since there will be no hacks driving the cars.
William H White, The Social Life of Small Places
And, in cities, what other characteristic jumps out about where people sit: there are many people sitting there, too, so — at peak times — it turns out to be a place where it is difficult to find a place to sit.
David Harvey. The Right to the City (2008)
Joel Kotkin, a paid shill for the right-wing ‘philanthropist’ Howard Ahmanson, recently suggested that Richard Florida had abandoned his ‘discredited’ creative class theory about the richness of cities. Not only did Florida respond, and dismantle the weak arguments that Kotkin arrayed, he went on to call for a new urban social compact, to extend the benefits of dynamic cities to all of their denizens.
Richard Florida, Did I Abandon My Creative Class Theory? Not So Fast, Joel Kotkin
We need to leverage density, skill, and knowledge to propel further innovation, economic growth and development (lord knows our economy needs it), and at the same time we have to build new institutions, new strategies, and a new urban social compact to improve the lot of those at the bottom.
That new social compact must address two important issues. One, it must work to lift the wages of those who toil in low-wage service and working-class jobs by harnessing more of their skills. My own research shows that when cognitive and social skills are added to those jobs it increases their wages, at a rate even greater than when they are added to knowledge work. And second, this urban socialcompact must address the other side of the coin, making housing more affordable by increasing density, and making urban centers more accessible by improving transit. There is a lot that cities can and must do to improve the lot of the 66 percent who aren’t reaping the full gains of the creative age. This report from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (who I worked with) outlines some strategies for extending New York’s knowledge and tech boom to a much broader strata of workers and residents. It’s just a beginning.
Cities are back, as much as Joel Kotkin wants to deny it. They have turned the corner and are growing and flourishing again. People with skill, knowledge, and creativity, entrepreneurial businesses, and small shops are returning to places that were once given up for lost. Our suburbs are being transformed bit by bit into more walkable, denser mixed-use places. A new urban revolution is upon us, driven in large part by the returns to density, skills, and creativity.
As in all economic transformations, the invisible hand of the market can only take us so far. The rest is up to us. This is not a time to complain about or belittle this shift, or, as with Kotkin, to pretend that it is not even taking place. We need to build the new institutions and the new social compact that can harness its power and extend its benefits to everyone. And there’s reason for optimism here, even in the face of all the undeniable inequities and problems we have, because the logic of history is pointing in a positive direction.
Our future economic development no longer turns on pumping resources mindlessly out of the ground or tearing up the environment to build houses on the suburban periphery. Real economic growth and development turns on the development of the full talents and capabilities of all our workers in high-tech, knowledge and creative fields, and in factories, farms, and services. And the places that are best suited to that task are our dense, innovative cities—our greatest innovation of all.
The path toward more dense urban environments is accelerating, as more young people and boomers reject the suburbs and move toward a more urban lifestyle. If we are to avoid squeezing out the current residents of America’s cities, we need to extend the benefits that more dynamic and potent cities can offer to all, not just the creatives and bankers.
sorry, no skyscrapers with trees in our future
When we imagine the future of environmentally sustainable cities, it’s common to depict them asforests of skyscrapers with, well, forests on them. But environmental writer Tim De Chant says that architects and futurists need to get real. Skyscrapers will never support trees:
There are plenty of scientific reasons why skyscrapers don’t—and probably won’t—have trees, at least not to the heights which many architects propose. Life sucks up there. For you, for me, for trees, and just about everything else except peregrine falcons. It’s hot, cold, windy, the rain lashes at you, and the snow and sleet pelt you at high velocity. Life for city trees is hard enough on the ground. I can’t imagine what it’s like at 500 feet, where nearly every climate variable is more extreme than at street level. […]
[read more @Tim de Chant]
What sort of changes in planning should we expect for New York City following Hurricane Sandy? Buildings with higher foundations, electrical systems moved from the basement to above the first floor, and watertight first floor doorways. But no retreat from the water’s edge is likely, in the near term.
New York Reassessing Building Code to Limit Storm Damage - Mireya Navarro
Some architects and building experts say the city should widen its efforts to plant more wetlands and parks that can serve as natural buffers to floods. “All the little blades of grass actually makes the flow of the water lower,” said Susannah C. Drake, associate director of the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design and the principal architect at dlandstudio.
What does not seem to be getting consideration, at least for now, is banning development altogether in the city’s flood zones, humble or affluent.
“This is not a viable policy option in New York City, and to be honest, nor is it in any other major coastal city I’ve been working,” said Jeroen Aerts, a water risk expert from the Free University in Amsterdam who has been hired by the mayor’s office to assess flood protections. “The stakes of developers and general economic activities in the waterfront are too high.”
In Mr. Aerts’s view, the most realistic options for New York are to build levees and surge barriers, and elevate and floodproof buildings.
Ms. Quinn, a likely candidate for mayor when Mr. Bloomberg’s term expires at the end of 2013, said changes in the building code were a far higher priority than rethinking zoning rules. But she said that nothing was off the table.
“I don’t think there’s anything that’s taboo to discuss at this point,” she said.
We’ll see what happens after the next storm leads to $30B in damages.